Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheel chairs. Arthritis-laden legs bend, backs strain, and with the aid of shaking hands they sink down now into their chairs. Racing heartbeats ease to a slower pace.
After a little rest, some are given song books. The others cannot see. The first song is announced. Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens up. A chorus fit for the King of Glory rises through the ceiling of the little room, bursts into the universe, and swirls into the Divine Throne Room. The voices of gallant warriors, torn and broken in body. The voices of strong warriors, courageous to the very finish. The halting voices of conquerors boldly reaching for the crown.
A little later they hear the words, “We are gathered around this table to once again commemorate our Lord’s death.” Once again. Yes, once again as many times as it takes until the victory is reached….
Bent hands, stabbed still by throbbing arthritis and shaking with palsy, reach out to touch the first symbol. The bread has already been broken for them. Yet it is with determination that each forces their fingers to close around the little fragment representing that crucified Body. Slowly, slowly it is taken up to the lips. Some fingers fumble at this point, and the fragment drops into a lap. The painful procedure is again repeated until completed.
Next the cup is brought. Blood symbol. Symbol of death and life. The little glass is so small it could embarrassingly spill. A kind friend picks it up and places it in the palm of the awaiting cupped hand. It is still shaking. So two hands are used ~ one folded under the first to steady it. The drink successfully reaches the lips and its contents triumphantly sipped. Oh what glory! To still be able to honor the dying Savior after all these years! The emptied glass falls out of tottering hands. It is caught by the tray. But the mind has already started transcending this room to another far above.
“Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained. Presently the collection tray is brought around. Dimes, quarters and dollar bills are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves. Some are wadded in cold hands. A faithful wife slips a dollar bill into the hand of her nearly paralyzed husband. Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray. Not much? It will help a burned-out family in town.
The preacher now stands before the little assembly. Many shift. The seats are harder, circulation cramped, arthritis continues to distress aged joints. He reads about being taken home to Glory some day. Some watch him, some gaze at the floor. He speaks of heaven. They begin to feel left behind. They think of those they ache to see again. It has been so long. They’ve fought so many battles. A few tears slip down as dew drops. They dream of heaven in the morning.
The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave. Slowly…. But it hadn’t always been that way. In years past they had taken time out of busy weeks, gathered up their newly scrubbed children, and gone down the road to the church building. They had sung heartily and kept their children still. Afterward, they had bustled about from one group to another discussing crops or jobs, new recipes or styles, gospel meetings or new buildings.
That was an eternity away. Now they await another eternity ~ it is much nearer. Dreams have been formed and some dissolved. Children born and some have died. Homes built and some broken. Bodies that once were strong and vigorous, minds that once were full of exciting daily activities, spirits that once were robust.
Now all are tired. No, they never reached perfection. Some are impatient still. Some still cannot always tell the truth. Some still pout. Some occasionally lose tempers. All continue with faults. But because of it all, they are most grateful for Jesus’ grace. Despite failings, He sees them as victors through Him, and loves them now as at the beginning.
The room is nearly empty now. They make their way down wandering halls to little rooms and resume their wait for the Mansions. They sigh. Battles of life have been met and fought. Mountains climbed. Desolations conquered. So now it’s a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best they, too, can do. Tired. Waiting. But willing to go on until they touch the mark. And then…. And then….
….they will start all over. Only this time it will be different. For this time there will be no pain, no foes, no failures, and never again will they grow old.
K. C. Haddad